1. WORK SHARING: A BETTER LIFE
Consider the effects of massive, full-time unemployment on unemployed and employed alike. Those who are employed find that they must work more and more hours to maintain their buying power and pay the mounting taxes resulting in part from the extensive, chronic unemployment of others. As the employed become overemployed through overtime and multiple employment, job opportunities for the unemployed are further reduced. The ultimate end of this cycle is a few people working around the clock to support all those that they have squeezed out of the market. The obvious solution is to share the work. The workweek needs reduction across the board and overtime should be eliminated. The maximum number of hours that people can work per week should be restricted in order to divide the available workhours between the available workers. Ironically, those who would initially decry this seeming restriction of their right to work would be the ones to benefit the most. Work sharing can liberate these people from their self-enslavement to excessive hours.
Mandatory compression (reduction) of the total hours in the workweek can result in workers having more buying power while working fewer total hours given certain conditions. Consider the following: Of the total hours that one works each week, only a portion are worked directly for one's own wealth. Many hours are worked to pay taxes. Taxes, subsequently, go to make up for revenues lost and expenses incurred by those who cannot find work. However, if we share the available workhours, the burden of the unemployed will be lifted off the backs of the taxpayers. People will work more hours for their private, individual gain while working fewer total hours. For instance, the compensation from one third of the average workweek goes directly to various kinds of taxes. If one did not have to pay any kind of taxes, one could work a third fewer hours without a loss of buying power. Similarly, work sharing reduces the gap between the total hours that one works and those hours one works directly for private gain.
Essential to workweek reduction is the education of people regarding buying power. In terms of actual compensation, dollars and other symbols of production time are arbitrary. More important than dollars per hour is the relative value of what each week's labor will buy. Which is better: to earn $10 a week with bread costing a dime a loaf or to earn $20 dollars a week with buck-a-loaf bread?
If compression is mandatory and universal for both blue and white collar workers, vacuums will be created in existing work hierarchies so that people will be drawn into positions with higher pay per hour. In addition, reducing the workweek would cause employment vacuums at entry level which would draw in the chronically unemployed. The latter requires a change in the nature of the unemployment and welfare programs; these changes are described in a following chapter.
The following is the backbone of a social contract which NUSA hopes to have legislated and legitimized. In light of the preceding discussion, would you sign the following contract if provided by your employer?
If you, the undersigned, will reduce the number of hours that you work, I will promote you to a better paying job so that your net buying power will actually be more than you have now. Your promotion will depend on two conditions. 1) You must devote half of your weekly time-savings to productive activities. 2) Educational pursuits and participation in community affairs must equally compose those activities.
Under the conditions of this contract, you would become increasingly skilled and productive as an employee, contributions to community projects would represent a decrease in the taxes required to solve public problems and new employment opportunities would open up for the presently unemployed. The productive quality of every lifehour in America would increase.
Reducing the workweek is a necessary condition for squeezing inflation out of existence. Inflation is the cost of unsolved problems. Most of today's problems center around a lack of jobs and a lack of relevant education. As workweek reduction creates vacancies for the unemployed, the conditions of the social contract will quickly solve the problem of undereducated workers.
As problems disappear before the onslaught of a fully employed, educated populace, inflationary losses will also disappear. As people have more time to work on personal and public problems, the inflationary cost of unsolved problems will vanish.
The chapters on work sharing show how working Americans can work less, have more buying power and participate in a better government. These three possibilities are lacking in the programs of the existing political parties. These possibilities constitute a dream or vision of what America (and humanity) can have.
The above social contract could lead to a 16- to 24-hour average workweek in just a few years with more buying power for each week worked. To work, the social contract must be further developed by concerned Americans and approved by a National Referendum. Then the contract or covenant can serve as a principle of existence.
As envisioned, the standardized work schedule of the average person would be as follows. Presently, a person works 2000 hours per year or 40 hours per week for fifty weeks. If the workweek were lowered to 24 hours, the average would amount to 1200 (50 weeks x 24 hours) hours a year. These hour totals could represent 150 8-hour shifts or 200 6-hour shifts. In other words, one could work only 150 days a year with 8-hour workdays or only 200 days a year with 6-hour days. Either way, reduction would result in a person working fewer days per year.
If eight-hour shifts continued to be the standard, one's work year could involve alternating weeks in which one worked either four days (32 hours) or three days (24 hours). In addition, the person would "flip-flop" back and forth between starting at the beginning of the week and starting at the middle. With this alternating weekly schedule (and flip-flop), the worker would have two- and five-day weekends alternately. One could have a mini-vacation every couple of weeks without having to face the holiday crowds that come with the existing, national three-day holiday weekends.
In addition, the above workweek schedule would result in the worker actually working an extra eight hours every two weeks. These hours are accumulated for vacation days. Thus, when one had three vacation days accumulated, one could take off three days of a short week to have a longer vacation. Or, days could be accumulated so one could take month-long vacations once a year. With work sharing, there would be no reason why the U.S. worker could not have the above work schedule in one or two years with a gain in retained buying power.
If applied on a wider scale, there is no reason why the same schedule could not, in a few more years, lead to a six-hour work day for a total of 900 workhours a year. Compare that to the present 2000 workhours per year.
Is the dream of a reduced workweek held only by a few? The following excerpt describes how many people would willingly give up some pay in order to have more time off.
PLAY VS. PAY: some 65% of workers prefer more leisure time to a 2% pay raise, says a nationwide survey of 1,566 employees ....
The trade for a loss of pay, however, is unnecessary in light of a social contract in which everyone agrees on a ceiling for workhours. Under NUSA and through a commonly agreed upon social contract, the average worker could have more free time and buying power. Within a year of instituting work sharing, the average worker could have a month long vacation and two ten day vacations without loss of buying power.
The means of making this dream a reality are spelled out in the following chapters on "compression." Working against this dream are the conclusions about the future based on findings by government and researchers. These are detailed in the next section. Despite our current circumstances, however, we can awaken to a better way.
Recent years have seen more and more people concerned about their future in terms of employment. Reaganomics has aggravated these fears of unemployment, underemployment, or excessive employment. Obviously, unemployment means that one has no employment. Underemployment is where one works at a job below his capability, losing not only wages but also job satisfaction. Excessive employment is where one has to work more than one job or must work past the average age of retirement just to survive. The following quotations show that, at this point, America's future is dismal in terms of full and appropriate employment.
As many as 15 million new jobs are needed this decade to keep pace with an expanding U.S. labor force, according to Congress's Joint Economic Committee.
Concurrent with this rise in unemployment and underemployment is the danger of excessive employment. The following quotation shows how many corporate managers are trying to cope with the deteriorating marketplace.
Many companies are trying to cut costs and raise productivity in this recession by getting more work out of fewer workers.
The economy is increasingly strained by the forced "leisure" of unemployment and the forced enslavement of overemployment. Both forms of misemployment cheapen the quality of the human lifehour. Compression can correct the imbalance by dividing up the available work among the available workers rather than overworking some while forcing unemployment upon others.
Neither political party has a sound program for full employment. The lack of full employment guarantees a rise in unemployment and distressing social consequences which can be best described as "The Human Tragedy of Unemployment." This article noted the social losses as a result of unemployment. An accompanying story provided a statistical assessment of a one percent "Spurt in Joblessness." Those effects and figures are:
36,887 total deaths
In addition, the direct cost of unemployment is great. A rise of one percent in unemployment costs the Treasury Department approximately $25 billion in lost revenues.
One step toward eliminating inflationary suffering and improving the quality of life is reducing the permissible workweek. For such a reduction to work, the people of America must understand, develop and ratify a social contract through a National Referendum.
The following chapters on workweek reduction elaborate on the rationale for the new social contract and its effectiveness. Work sharing is an important way to eliminate inflation. With this reduction properly implemented, America would become the educational and managerial capital of the world.
Below are specific benefits of compression. They are further elaborated upon in the chapter on the "Benefits and Enforcement of Compression."
Benefits (vs. legacy of economic disaster):
Reduction can occur ... if enough people read about it and if telecomputation is used to develop a national consensus and commitment to a social contract of, by, and for the people. Democracy is necessary to compression of the workweek and its benefits as detailed above.
NUSA Proposition #1: I'm for a social contract ratified in a National Referendum that would make work sharing mandatory and universal.
It is not unrealistic to dream of working fewer hours and having more buying power because of increased productivity and more stable market conditions.
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